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scene of the play, this is not easy to determine. Mr. Hunter thinks the Poet had in view the island of Lampedusa, “which lies midway between Malta and the African coast.” It may be so; but I rather think the Poet fixed his scene upon an island of the mind ; and that he transferred to his ideal whereabout some of the marvels described in the forecited narrative. The supernatural of the play was no doubt Shakespeare's own creation ; but it would have been in accordance with his usual method to avail himself of whatever interest might spring from the popular notions touching the Bermudas ; and at that time the English people had their imaginations kindled to the highest pitch with marvellous tales of the newly-discovered world.
No play, tale, novel, or writing of any kind has been found which could have furnished any thing towards the plot or characters of The Tempest. So that in this respect
we can but regard the whole as having been carved fresh out of the Poet's own ideal stock.
The points already stated infer the play to have been written as late as 1610. This inference is fully sustained by the internal evidence of the play itself. Coleridge sets it down as “ certainly one of Shakespeare's latest works, judging from the language only. The play has indeed the same peculiarities of workmanship, and these too in their clearest form, which mark the other dramas of his closing period; the style, the versification, the general cast of thought, the union of richness and severity, the grave, austere beauty of character which pervades it, and the organic compactness of the whole structure, all concurring to identify it as an issue of the Poet's ripest years.
The Tempest is on all hands regarded as one of Shakespeare's perfectest works. Some of his plays, I should say, have beams in their eyes, but this has hardly so much as a mote; or, if it has any, my own eyes are not clear enough to discern it. Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban are three of the most unique and original conceptions that ever sprang from the wit of man. We can scarcely imagine how the Ideal could be pushed further beyond Nature ; yet we here find it clothed with all the truth and life of Nature. And the whole texture of incident and circumstance is frared in keeping with that Ideal ; so that all the parts and particulars cohere together, mutually supporting and supported.
Accordingly the Poet's critics are almost, if not altogether, unanimous in praise of this drama ; and the best of them have put forth their best forces of judgment and eloquence in approving and discoursing its beauties. For the purpose here intended, I deem it better to reproduce some of their sayings than to occupy the space with critical remarks of my own. The precious notes which we have from Coleridge are unusually full upon this play. I therefore quote somewhat largely from him:
« The romance opens with a busy scene admirably appropriate to the kind of drama, and giving, as it were, the key-note of the whole harmony. It prepares and initiates the excitement required for the entire piece, and yet does not demand any thing from the spectators which their previous habits had not fitted them to understand. It is the bustle of a tempest, from which the real horrors are abstracted ; therefore it is poetical, though not in strictness natural, and is purposely restrained from concentrating the interest on itself, and used merely as an induction or tuning for what is to follow.
“In the second scene, Prospero's speeches, till the entrance of Ariel, contain the finest example I remember of retrospective narration for the purpose of exciting immediate interest, and putting the audience in possession of all the information necessary for the understanding of
the plot. Observe, too, the perfect probability of the moment chosen by Prospero to open out the truth to his daughter, his own romantic bearing, and how completely any thing that might have been disagreeable to us in the magician is reconciled and shaded in the humanity and natural feelings of the father. In the very first speech of Miranda the simplicity and tenderness of her character are at once laid open ; it would have been lost in direct contact with the agitation of the first
“The appearance and characters of the super- or ultra-natural servants are finely contrasted. Ariel has in every thing the airy tint which gives the name ; and it is worthy of remark that Miranda is never directly brought into comparison with Ariel, lest the natural and human of the one and the supernatural of the other should tend to neutralize each other. Caliban, on the other hand, is all earth, all condensed and gross in feelings and images ; he has the dawnings of understanding, without reason or the moral sense ; and in him, as in some brute animals, this advance to the intellectual faculties, without the moral sense, is marked by the appearance of vice. For it is in the primacy of the moral being only that man is truly human ; in his intellectual powers he is certainly approached by the brutes ; and, man's whole system duly considered, those powers cannot be viewed as other than means to an end, that is, morality.
“ In this scene, as it proceeds, is displayed the impression made by Ferdinand and Miranda on each other; it is love at first sight, .'at the first sight they have chang’d eyes.' Prospero's interruption of the courtship has often seemed to me to have no sufficient motive ; still, his alleged reason * lest too light winning make the prize light'- is enough for the ethereal connections of the romantic imagination, although it would not be so for the historical. The whole courtingscene indeed, in the beginning of the third Act, between the lovers, is a masterpiece ; and the first dawn of disobedience in the mind of Miranda to the command of her father is very finely drawn, so as to seem the working of the Scriptural command, Thou shalt leave father and mother, &c. O, with what exquisite purity this scene is conceived and executed ! Shakespeare may sometimes be gross, but I boldly say that he is always moral and modest. Alas ! in this our day, decency of manners is preserved at the expense of morality of heart, and delicacies for vice are allowed, whilst grossness against it is hypocritically, or at least morbidly, condemned.
“ In this play are admirably sketched the vices generally accompanying a low degree of civilization ; and in the first scene of the second Act Shakespeare has, as in many other places, shown the tendency in bad men to indulge in scorn and contemptuous expressions, as a mode of getting rid of their own uneasy feelings of inferiority to the good, and also, by making the good ridiculous, of rendering the transition of others to wickedness easy. Shakespeare never puts habitual scorn into the mouths of other than bad men, as here in the instances of Antonio and Sebastian. Observe how the effect of this scene is heightened by contrast with another counterpart of it in low life, that between the conspirators Stephano, Caliban, and Trin. culo, in the second scene of the third Act, in which there are the same essential characteristics.”
Heraud's Inner Life of Shakespeare gives the following singular and highly original view of Prospero : “A
will, to be perfectly free, must act purely in a moral sphere, where will and power are one.
This privilege can rarely be shared by the man of action, who, though he may shape many things according to his wish, must find in his experience much intractable matter that defies alteration. It belongs more especially to the contemplative man, who, whether sa e, poet, or artist, acts in a spiritual sphere, where all is pliant to voluntary action, and to desire is to possess. Here it is possible to create a world in the image of its producer, and fill it with agents who play the parts which he had designed in the manner that he had appointed. Here the soul communicates with higher powers, and receives inspirations and revelations not granted to the lower faculties and organs that operate in the fields of sensible and animal experience. Here it expatiates in dreams of a past or future Paradise. Such a contemplatist is Prospero, - a lofty and serenely minded man, whose soul breathes the pure air of conscience, and lives on angels' food. And what if in him we may see the very Shakespeare himself, as it were, of the tempest ?' Such is Coleridge's remark ; and it contains, I think, more truth than he meant to convey. If in any character that he has drawn, Shakespeare has certainly portrayed himself in this.”
I must also quote a happy passage touching the heroine from Gervinus, the distinguished German critic: “Miranda is one of those exquisite feminine creations of the Poet, whose excellence does not depend on peculiar prominent qualities, but on that tranquil harmony and purity which we feel to be so agreeable and desirable in women ; like Cordelia, Ophelia, Perdita, she is one of those quiet natures, whose mental worth is closed as within a bud, whose depth of character is hidden, till the occasion comes and reveals the richness of the inner life. Reared in solitude, she is like a blank leaf as regards all social gifts and conventional accomplishments; but her fancy is full of inward life and playfulness, and her pure soul uninjured by intercourse with mankind. She could acquire few faults and few virtues, as opportunity for both was wanting. Thus the Poet endowed her with modesty and pity, virtues that inay be acquired in solitude, and that form a soil in which every other virtue may be planted.”
Schlegel gives much the same view of Caliban as that already quoted from Coleridge ; describing him as “a mixture of gnome and savage, half-demon, half-brute, in whose behaviour we perceive at once the traces of his native disposition and the influence of Prospero's education”; and finally comparing his mind to a dark cave, into which the light of knowledge falling neither illuminates nor warms it, but only serves to put in motion the poisonous vapours generated there. And in reference to him and Ariel he adds the following: “They are neither of them simple allegorical personifications, but beings individually determined. In general we find, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, in The Tempest, in the magical part of Macbeth and wherever Shakespeare avails himself of the popular belief in the invisible presence of spirits, and the possibility of coming in contact with them, a profound view of the inward life of Nature, and her mysterious springs, which, it is true, can never be altogether unknown to the genuine poet, but which few have possessed in an equal degree with Dante and himself.”
The comic portions and characters of this play are in Shakespeare's raciest vein ; yet they are perfectly unique and singular withal, being quite unlike any other of his preparations in that kind, as much so as if they were the growth of a different planet.
ALONSO, King of Naples.
STEPHANO, a drunken Butler. SEBASTIAN, his Brother.
Master of a Ship, Boatswain, and Mariners PROSPERO, the rightful Duke of Milan. Antonio, his Brother, the usurping Duke MIRANDA, Daughter to Prospero.
of Milan. FERDINAND, Son to the King of Naples.
ARIEL, an airy Spirit. GONZALO, an honest old Counsellor of Naples.
JUNO, presented by Spirits.
Other Spirits attending on Prospero.
ACT I. SCENE I. On a Ship at Sea. A Storm, with
Thunder and Lightning.
Mast. Good, speak to the mariners :' fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground : bestir, bestir. [Exit.
Enter Mariners. Boats. Heigh, my hearts! cheerly, cheerly, my hearts ! yare, yare! Take in the topsail ! tend to the Master's whistle. [Exeunt Mariners.] - Blow till thou burst thy wind, if room enough. Enter ALONSO, SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, FERDINAND, GON
ZALO, and others. Alon. Good Boatswain, have care. Where's the Master ? Play the men.
1 This has been commonly printed with a (:) after Good; thus making the sense to be 16 good cheer,", which is certainly wrong.
Good means good friend” or ? good fellow," as twice afterwards in this scene: “Nay, good, be patient."
2 Yare is here an imperative verb, - be nimble, be quick, or active. The word is seldom if ever used now in any form, but was much used in the Poet's time. In North’s Plutarch we have such phrases as galleys not yare of steerage," and "ships light of yarage,” and “galleys heavy of yarage." If room enough means if we have sea-room enough.
°8 Act with spirit, behave like men. So, in 2 Samuel x. 12: “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people."
Boats. I pray now, keep below.
not hear him ? You mar our labour : keep your cabins; you do assist the storm.
Gon. Nay, good, be patient.
Boats. When the sea is. Hence! What care these roarers for the name of king ? To cabin : silence ! trouble us not.
Gon. Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard.
Boats. None that I more love than myself. You are a counsellor: if you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more; use your authority: if you cannot, give thanks you have liv'd so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour, if it so hap. — Cheerly, good hearts ! - Out of our way, I say.
Éxit. Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath no drowning-mark upon him; his complexion is perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his hanging! make the rope of his destiny our cable, for our own doth little advantage! If he be not born to be hang'd, our case is miserable.
[Exeunt. Re-enter Boatsvain. Boats. Down with the top-mast!" yare; lower, lower! Bring her to: try with main-course. [Ă Cry within.] A plague upon this howling! they are louder than the weather or our office.
Re-enter SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, and GONZALO. Yet again! what do you here? Shall we give o'er, and drown ? Have
mind to sink ? Seb. A
o' throat, you bawling, blasphemous, uncharitable dog! Boats. Work
then. Ant. Hang, cur, hang! you insolent noise-maker, we are less afraid to be drown'd than thou art.
4 Of this order Lord Mulgrave, a sailor critic, says: “The striking the top-mast was a new invention in Shakespeare's time, which he here very properly introduces. He has placed his ship in the situation in which it was indisputably right to strike the top-mast, where he had not sea-room.
5 I follow Mr. White's punctuation here; which, he says, was suggested to him by Mr. William Story, of Boston. The passage is commonly printed, “Bring her to try with main-course.” In support of his pointing Mr. White aptly quotes from Lord Mulgrave's comments on this scene: “The gale increasing, the top-mast is struck, to take the weight from aloft, make the ship drive less to leeward, and bear the mainsail, under which the ship is brought to."